How Turkey Border Zone Could Help Syrian Rebels Obtain Weapons, Cash To Fight Assad

A Free Syrian Army soldier gestures atop a tank after capturing the Assad regime's Brigade 52 base in Daraa, southern Syria, June 9, 2015. Reuters/Alaa Al-Faqir

A Free Syrian Army soldier gestures atop a tank after capturing the Assad regime’s Brigade 52 base in Daraa, southern Syria, June 9, 2015. Reuters/Alaa Al-Faqir

IB Times, By Erin Banco, July 28 2015:

Rebels in Syria are counting their stockpiles of ammunition, weapons and tanks in the northern city of Aleppo, the country’s second-largest city and one of the largest battlegrounds in the fight against the Islamic State group and President Bashar Assad’s forces. As usual, the rebels are running low this month on supplies needed to defeat their enemies. Even for some of the strongest and best-connected units in northern Syria, finding and obtaining simple resources like bullets and Kalashnikovs can take weeks.

That could all change in the coming days when the United States and its NATO allies move forward with a proposed offensive to create a “safe zone” aimed at pushing back Islamic State group militants from the Syrian-Turkish border. For rebel groups, the promised campaign represents an unprecedented opportunity to obtain much needed-cash and weapons. But for the U.S. and Turkey, the countries spearheading the operation, there is a risk that the weapons they supply will end up in the hands of rebels who have a different goal — fighting Assad first, not ISIS.

Under the plan, Turkish troops and Syrian rebel fighters are to clear a 60-mile strip of land along the border to create a haven for Syrian refugees, who have flooded Turkey’s borders during the four-year civil war. The U.S. and Turkey will rely on rebels on the ground to secure the buffer zone. The rebels are supposed to get regular shipments of ammunition and heavy weaponry to ensure that the Sunni militants known as ISIS stay out of the area.

tank

That process, though, could go awry quickly. The rebels receiving the arms for securing the buffer zone will undergo no formal training and will not be bound to any official or binding agreement with the U.S. and Turkey. Rebels in Aleppo say that while they are willing to join the buffer zone monitoring force, they fully intend on using the weapons they receive from the U.S. and Turkey for their fight against Assad first and foremost, before the fight against ISIS.

“This is what we have been asking for for years. This is what we wanted,” a member of one of the largest rebel umbrella organizations in the country said on condition of anonymity. “We have been asking for weapons for years, and we finally have a good chance of getting them.”

Taking out Assad is not an immediate concern for the U.S. It wants to defeat ISIS first. Turkey, on the other hand, supports the rebel groups that see Assad as the real enemy.

In recent years, Turkey has funded groups like Ahrar al-Sham, a Sunni Muslim extremist group with ties to al Qaeda, and has pushed for the ousting of Assad before ISIS. The Turkish government has also taken part in the shipment of arms to rebels in Syria, Reuters reported earlier this year.

In contrast, the U.S. has rejected cooperation with Ahrar al-Sham and other extremists, instead preferring to work with so-called “moderate rebels.” The U.S. has also promoted an ISIS-first strategy, which has angered some rebels who argue that Assad is the true enemy and must be taken out of power before the Islamic State can be toppled.

Rebel groups in Syria, especially in the north, are split in their allegiances to Turkey and the U.S., and finding a rebel force with a common ideology and strategy to carry out the monitoring of the buffer zone will be difficult, rebels in Aleppo told International Business Times Monday. The weapons, they said, will end up falling into the hands of groups that have different ideologies and ultimate goals.

While many rebel leaders used to fall under one umbrella group, the Free Syrian Army, they have recently split and are now duking it out for land and power. There are the hardline Islamist fighters with known battlefield strength, but an extremist Muslim ideology. Then there’s the more moderate groups known for their popularity among the people of Aleppo, who while still devoutly Muslim, do not want the implementation of Shariah law in the post-war era.

In an effort to get the U.S. weapons for the buffer zone mission, extremist fighters who make up Ahrar al-Sham, one of the main Islamist rebel groups, say they have tried to promote themselves as a more moderate organization, one willing to work with other groups toward a peace process. But in the end, they say, the weapons they receive will be used for one goal.

“Ahrar al-Sham wants to see the end to Assad’s reign,” wrote Labib Al Nahhas, foreign affairs director for Ahrar al-Sham, in the Telegraph this week. “Assad and his cabal of murderous generals must go.”

Al Nahhas also warned the U.S. against attempting to bring Western values to Syria. “Political systems and models of government cannot be imported into the Middle East and expected to flourish where historical experiences, political cultures and social structures are so radically different. There needs to be a major role for religion and local custom in any political arrangement that emerges,” he said.

Syrian President Bashar Assad admitted during a speech in Damascus that the Syrian Army no longer has enough troops to defend the entire country.  Reuters/Sana Sana

Syrian President Bashar Assad admitted during a speech in Damascus that the Syrian Army no longer has enough troops to defend the entire country. Reuters/Sana Sana

Other rebel leaders, including some who were once trained and given weapons under a CIA covert operation against Assad in 2013, have called the safe zone operation a “sham.” In the spring of 2013, the U.S. selected groups within the Free Syrian Army for a program that allowed for the transfer of U.S.-made weapons to Turkey via other countries’ aircraft.

One senior rebel leader in Idlib, a major rebel stronghold in the southwest of Aleppo, insisted the West had failed them before and “will fail us again.” The United States is “sitting on its heels” in seriously attacking Assad because it does not want to engage in armed conflict with the dictator’s allies, Iran and Russia, he added.

Still, the appeal of helping the United States and Turkey fight ISIS is clear to many rebel leaders, who expect the offensive to bring in loads of cash and weapons, resources they have needed desperately amid a four-year battle to unseat Assad.

“We think that President Obama threw the Syrian opposition under the bus,” Mohammed Ghanem, a senior political adviser in Washington at the Syrian American Council, a grassroots organization based in Chicago, told IBTimes in November. “Given how abysmal the situation is in Syria, that seems like a bad joke.”

Also see:

Obama Admin Backs NATO Ally Turkey’s Double Game with Islamic State After Turks Bomb Anti-ISIS Kurdish Groups

1436985867gory-23PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, July 26, 2015:

A bizarre situation unfolded this past week, one that could possibly drag the U.S. into a new war in the Middle East.

On Monday, a suicide bomber attacked a rally in Suruc, Turkey, targeting a news conference of the Kurdish Federation of Socialist Youth Associations, killing 32. The suicide bomber was identified by Turkish authorities as an Islamic State supporter who had returned from Syria.

NYT tweet

In response the Islamist government in Ankara, led by Obama’s pal Recep Erdogan (one of Obama’s top five international friends), launched airstrikes targeting not the Islamic State, but Kurdish groups in Iraq.

CNN Turk

CNN Turk m2

This comes as more evidence emerges that Turkey has been playing a double game with the Islamic State. The evidence was obtained in a U.S. special forces raid of a senior ISIS leader in Iraq.

The Guardian reports today:

When US special forces raided the compound of an Islamic State leader in eastern Syria in May, they made sure not to tell the neighbours.

The target of that raid, the first of its kind since US jets returned to the skies over Iraq last August, was an Isis official responsible for oil smuggling, named Abu Sayyaf. He was almost unheard of outside the upper echelons of the terror group, but he was well known to Turkey. From mid-2013, the Tunisian fighter had been responsible for smuggling oil from Syria’s eastern fields, which the group had by then commandeered. Black market oil quickly became the main driver of Isis revenues – and Turkish buyers were its main clients.

As a result, the oil trade between the jihadis and the Turks was held up as evidence of an alliance between the two. It led to protests from Washington and Europe – both already wary of Turkey’s 900-mile border with Syria being used as a gateway by would-be jihadis from around the world.

This comes as more evidence emerges that Turkey has been playing a double game with the Islamic State. The evidence was obtained in a U.S. special forces raid of a senior ISIS leader in Iraq.

The Guardian reports today:

When US special forces raided the compound of an Islamic State leader in eastern Syria in May, they made sure not to tell the neighbours.

The target of that raid, the first of its kind since US jets returned to the skies over Iraq last August, was an Isis official responsible for oil smuggling, named Abu Sayyaf. He was almost unheard of outside the upper echelons of the terror group, but he was well known to Turkey. From mid-2013, the Tunisian fighter had been responsible for smuggling oil from Syria’s eastern fields, which the group had by then commandeered. Black market oil quickly became the main driver of Isis revenues – and Turkish buyers were its main clients.

As a result, the oil trade between the jihadis and the Turks was held up as evidence of an alliance between the two. It led to protests from Washington and Europe – both already wary of Turkey’s 900-mile border with Syria being used as a gateway by would-be jihadis from around the world.

Turkey oil link t0 ISIS

 

This is not the first time that Turkey has been caught double-dealing against their U.S. NATO ally. There was the “gas for gold” scheme with Iran that allowed the Islamic Republic to skirt international sanctions, and Erdogan and the Turkish intelligence chief had a photographed meeting with U.S. designated Al-Qaeda global terror financier Yasin al-Qadi.

Curiously, shortly after those reports showing photographs of Erdogan meeting with al-Qadi appeared in the Turkish media, the Treasury Department under Obama removed al-Qadi’s terror designation.

The preferred route of thousands of foreign fighters now in the ranks of ISIS appears to have been mostly coming from Turkey and crossing the border into Syria, bringing complaints that Turkey was not doing enough to combat the group’s growth and that the border was becoming “a two-way jihadist highway.”

But a series of published reports going back to last year seem to show direct and indirect Turkish support for the Islamic State.

  • In April 2014, Turkish media reports showed photographs of ISIS commander Abu Muhammad being treated at the Hatay State Hospital after being injured fighting in Syria. Opposition politicians also claimed that fighters with Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria, were allowed to stay at the guesthouses of the government’s Religious Affairs Directorate.
  • Last November, Newsweek published an interview with a former ISIS fighter who said that ISIS fighters faced no obstructions entering from Turkey. Meanwhile, ISIS commanders bragged about the “full cooperation with the Turks,” while anti-ISIS Kurdish fighters were blocked by Turkish authorities.
  • This account seems to be confirmed by a report from Aydınlık Daily, which reported in July 2014 that the Turkish intelligence service, the MIT, had transported members of Syrian terrorist groups and their weapons across the border.
  • Two weeks after that report, at an event site approved by Erdogan’s ruling AKP Party and sponsored by a publication known for its ISIS sympathiesa rally was held in Istanbul where video showed speakers openly calling for jihad. There were also reports that recruiting for ISIS fighters took place.
  • In January, Turkish military documents from the Gendarmerie General Command leaked online showed that Turkish intelligence were transporting missiles, mortars and anti-aircraft ammunition for Al-Qaeda and actively obstructed the military from documenting the transfers.
  • The New York Times reported in May that massive amounts of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer used for making bombs, were being prepared in a Turkish town near Syria and transported across the border. The report quoted an opposition politician who admitted that the fertilizing was not for farms, but for bombs.
  • Reuters reported exclusively in late May that court documents and prosecutor testimony revealed that Turkish intelligence had transported weapons across the border in 2013 and early 2014, aiding the offensive push by ISIS into Iraq in June 2014. Erdogan himself had said that the shipments were aid.

And then there’s this, though it’s unlikely that it’s much of a secret…

Turkey recruting IS

Read more

Also see:

U.S.-Funded Free Syrian Army Unit Shows Off Its Kidnapping Skills in New Training Video

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, July 23, 2015:

A training video released today by Liwa Fursan al-Haqq (Knights of Justice Brigade) of the “vetted moderate” Free Syrian Army (FSA) opens with the group’s special forces practicing their abduction and kidnapping skills. And yet FSA units, funded, supported and armed by the U.S., have been repeatedly implicated in the abduction and kidnapping of U.S. citizens in Syria.

Here you can see them putting their U.S.-funded training to practice:

vlcsnap-2015-07-23-18h11m41s955

Also shown are critical military skills, such as standing on the back of a motorcycle while shooting two U.S.-funded AK-47s one-handed:

vlcsnap-2015-07-23-18h27m21s069-1024x576

Of course no jihadist training video would be complete without the requisite traversing of the monkey bars:

vlcsnap-2015-07-23-18h23m52s046-1024x576

Or the “Fiery Ring of Death”:

vlcsnap-2015-07-23-18h24m37s471-1024x576

Delta Force and the Navy SEALs have nothing on Liwa Fursan al-Haqq. Yet all three elite units are funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars!

You can watch the whole 10 minute video in all of its glory:

What makes the video of U.S.-funded FSA units being trained in kidnapping and abduction so important to note is that FSA units have repeatedly been implicated in the abduction of American citizens who were later traded to Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria, as well as the Islamic State.

That would include American journalist James Foley, beheaded by the Islamic State last year in its first such grisly video, who reportedly came into ISIS custody when the FSA-aligned Dawud Brigade that kidnapped and held Foley pledged allegiance to ISIS and delivered him to ISIS as a token of their submission.

That, however, is not the only such documented incident of FSA units abducting Americans.

In late October, American journalist Theo Padnos — who was captured by the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and then given over to Jabhat al-Nusra — told the story of his two-year captivity in the New York Times Magazine.

At one point, Padnos says he escaped from his Al-Qaeda captors and found himself back in the hands of the FSA, who then, again, promptly turned him back over to the terror group.

Padnos also relates this exchange with some U.S.-trained FSA fighters that exposes the glaring weaknesses of the CIA’s vetting system:

I returned to the FSA troops. One told me that his unit had recently traveled to Jordan to receive training from American forces in fighting groups like the Nusra Front.

“Really?” I said. “The Americans? I hope it was good training.”

“Certainly, very,” he replied.

The fighters stared at me. I stared at them.

After a few moments, I asked, “About this business of fighting Jebhat al Nusra?”

“Oh, that,” one said. “We lied to the Americans about that.”

An NBC News crew taken captive in Syria in December 2012, and who later repeatedly claimed they had been held by an Assad regime militia, later admitted – following a New York Times investigation – that they were in fact held by an FSA criminal network.

Also, there is evidence that NBC News executives knew from the time of the crew’s capture that they were held by U.S. allies, but allowed the blame to fall on Assad since that didn’t conflict with the Obama administration’s position at the time.

The chief Washington D.C. cheerleader for the Syrian rebels, Charles Lister of the Brookings Institution, happily announced the Liwa Fursan Al-Qaqq video release earlier today:

Lister tweet

As I noted back in April here at PJ Media, Lister finally admitted what he and most of the other Western supporters of the Syrian rebels have well known for a long time — that vast majority of Syrian rebel groups have been associated with Jabhat al-Nusra, a fact mostly concealed by the D.C. “smart set”:

This latter alliance with Jabhat al-Nusra has been a consistent facet of insurgent dynamics in Syria, but not only in terms of conservative Salafist groups like Ahrar al-Sham. In fact, while rarely acknowledged explicitly in public, the vast majority of the Syrian insurgency has coordinated closely with Al-Qaeda since mid-2012 – and to great effect on the battlefield. But while this pragmatic management of relationships may have secured opposition military victories against the regime, it has also come at an extraordinary cost. The assimilation of Al-Qaeda into the broader insurgency has discouraged the U.S. and its European allies from more definitively backing the ‘moderate’ opposition. That, by extension, has encouraged the intractability of the conflict we see today and the rise of jihadist factions like Jabhat al-Nusra, IS, and many others.

In fact, it was just a year ago yesterday that Liwa Fursan Al-Haqq announced they were separating from Jabhat al-Nusra. Nusra had been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. in December 2012.

As a result of that separation, that gave the U.S. the go-ahead to begin supplying them with heavy weaponry, such as TOW anti-tank missiles, which you can see them using in the video below:

So the next time that an American citizen finds himself kidnapped by a FSA unit, possibly ending up starring in the Islamic State’s latest beheading video, he can take comfort that his captors have received the best training and received the most advanced weaponry courtesy of his own country’s support.

Your U.S. taxpayer dollars hard at work!

World View: The Arab World is Disintegrating into War

ISIS video

ISIS video

Breitbart, by JOHN J. XENAKIS, July 19, 2015:

Behind the scenes in the Iran nuclear deal

President Barack Obama and Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei (AFP)

President Barack Obama and Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei (AFP)

I like to reference Debka’s newsletter because it contains valuable insights into what’s going on, but it is written from Israel’s point of view, and sometimes gets things wrong. This week’s subscriber-only newsletter (sent to me by a subscriber) contains an analysis of the behind the scenes activities that led to the Iran nuclear deal:

  • Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has been talking about developing nuclear technology, but it really is a bluff, designed to get the US to negotiate the nuclear deal and remove sanctions. Iran has no intention of developing a nuclear weapon while Obama is in office, since the relationship with Obama is more important. — This is plausible, and probably true
  • The Shah of Iran was overthrown by Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini in 1979 with the support of President Jimmy Carter and his national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. The Shah was double-crossed. — This is plausible, but I have no idea whether it’s true.
  • Brzezinski and his long-time associate Brent Scrowcroft were influential in the new Iran-US deal. — This is plausible.
  • Obama now expects Iran, perhaps naively, to shoulder most of the burden of fighting the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) in Iraq and Syria. — It’s plausible that Obama believes this.
  • Many Sunni Arab leaders, including Saudi’s new king Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, believe that Obama helped bring about the “Arab Spring” in order to help Iran’s rise. — It’s plausible that Arab leaders believe this, but it’s not possible for Obama or any politician to have caused or prevented the Arab Spring. For that matter, Carter and Brzezinski could not have caused or prevented Iran’s Great Islamic Revolution. These great events were caused by enormous generational changes that could not have been stopped any more than a tsunami can be stopped.
  • Obama turned his back on the Sunni Arab nations because he sees the Arab world as disintegrating into bloody, hopeless wars.
  • The continuing rhetorical fury of Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Iran agreement has outlived its usefulness, according to some Israeli officials, who feel he should moderate his statements and instead focus on a new strategy to deal with the new world following the agreement.

Generally, the Debka view is consistent with my article “15-Jul-15 World View — Arab views of Iran nuclear deal,” including the fact that Iran is becoming America’s ally, and the Sunni Arabs will be America’s enemy. Debka

The Arab world is disintegrating into war

The same Debka newsletter points out that the number of conflicts in the Arab world is larger than the number of Arab nations involved in the conflicts:

  • Libya has fallen apart and is mired in tribal warfare and war with ISIS.
  • Egypt is plagued by frequent terrorist attacks by both ISIS (as “Sinai Province”) and the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Syria is mired in an endless war pitting Bashar al-Assad’s army plus Hezbollah plus Iran plus Shia militias from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan versus ISIS plus other jihadists and the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
  • Iraq is in full-scale war with ISIS.
  • Lebanon is poised on a knife’s edge from the spillover of the Syrian war.
  • Jordan is ostensibly stable, but Bedouin tribes’ traditional loyalty to the crown is being undermined, and Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and ISIS are each poised to move in on Amman.
  • Yemen is in a civil war, in which Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations are fighting the Iran-backed Houthis. The battle is being exploited by al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIS to seize large swathes of land.
  • Saudi Arabia is caught up in three wars — Yemen, Iraq and Syria — with grave domestic challenges from the Shias in the east and from the 16-19 year old Sunni youths, nearly a third of whom are without jobs and have set up clandestine cells across the kingdom dedicated to toppling the House of Saud.

On the other hand, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman have lined up behind the Iran nuclear deal and have maintained good relations with Iran. In particular, the UAE expects to gain from the Iran’s post-sanctions import and export trade by having Dubai become the biggest free port in the Gulf.

Debka says that the Arab governments are, like Israel, in a state of disarray after being swept aside by the Iran deal, and in a state of gloom over all the wars going on. The Arab nations need to focus on creating a new Arab regional structure to replace the outdated Arab League.

As we have been saying for many years, the Mideast is headed for a major regional ethnic and sectarian war with 100% certainty, and events seem to bring that war closer every week. This is particularly true of last week’s major event, the Iran nuclear deal.

It is impossible to predict the sequence of political events that will lead to this regional war, but the concept of “a new Arab regional structure” suggests one possibility. My expectation is that, sooner or later, the Arab states will unite with ISIS to fight Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, and this new Arab regional structure may be the political mechanism that brings all these Sunni and Arab elements together to fight Iran. Debka

Saudi Arabia conducts major anti-terrorism sweep against ISIS

In a major anti-terrorism sweep across the country, Saudi Arabia has arrested 431 people believed to belong to ISIS cells, “as part of a scheme managed from troubled areas abroad and aimed at inciting sectarian strife and chaos.” According to the Saudi statement statement:

The number of arrested to date was 431 … detainees, most of them citizens, as well as participants holding other nationalities including Yemeni, Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, Algerian, Nigerian, Chadian, and unidentified others.

What combines these cells (which were subjected to security restrictions by not making direct contacts among themselves) is the belonging to the terrorist ISIS organization in terms of the adoption of thought, takfir of society and bloodshed, and then exchanging roles to implement the plans and objectives dictated from abroad.

There have been several terrorist attacks on Shia mosques in eastern Saudi Arabia, and the purpose of the announcement in part was to make it clear to the Shias in the east that the government is doing something. The Saudis claim that they have thwarted six additional planned attacks on Shia mosques.

The fact that over 400 people have been arrested gives an idea of the scale of threat that the Saudis face in ISIS. Saudi Press Agency and AP and Arab News

Massive bomb attack in Iraq market kills over 130

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a massive bomb attack in a crowded open-air market in Khan Bani Saad, a mostly Shia town 20 miles northeast of Baghdad. The death toll is 130 and climbing, making it the biggest ISIS civilian terror attack in the country.

A man in a truck pulled up to the marketplace in the extreme summer heat and said he was selling ice at a discount to celebrate the end of Ramadan. He lured over 100 people to the truck, and the detonated at least one ton of explosives.

Khan Bani Saad is in Diyala province, which borders Iran. It’s the only province in Iraq where Iranian jets are known to have conducted airstrikes against ISIS earlier this year.CNN and AP

Brookings Goes to Bat for Al Qaeda-linked Group…Again

1720491514 (1)Center for Security Policy, by Kyle Shideler, July 15, 2015:

Fresh off their annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum that proved to be a who’s who meeting of Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, The Qatari-funded Brookings Institute is once again going to bat for an Al Qaeda-linked group of militants known as Ahrar Al Sham. Author Charles Lister takes the occasion of the publication of an Op-Ed in the Washington Post by Ahrar Al-Sham’s “head of foreign political relations” Labib  al-Nahhas to laud recent Ahrar Al Sham statements of “moderation”:

While clearly being sharply critical of current U.S. policy, Nahhas’ most powerful message was a genuine call for political engagement—“we remain committed to dialogue,” he said. Coming from an armed Islamist group that came close to being designated and whose facilities have been targeted by U.S. aircraft at least once, this call does show an extent of political pragmatism. Ahrar al-Sham has not called for American support one key Ahrar al-Sham decision-maker told me, but instead desires “the chance for a new start, in which we acknowledge the mistakes of the past and make it clear that a political track is possible, but with the right players and the right principles.”

Such engagement in any form does not have to be a prerequisite for the provision of support, but can be merely of value in and of itself. In the case of Ahrar al-Sham specifically, such engagement would not come without its inherent risks, but it may also prove practical in ensuring at the very least that al-Qaida does not come out on top in Syria.

For this reason and others, Ahrar al-Sham’s senior leadership has been managing a gradual process of external political moderation—or some might say maturity—for at least the last 18 months.

That Ahrar Al-Sham is some how moderating, maturing, or distancing itself from Al Qaeda is a bag of goods that Brookings authors have been attempting to sell for some time. In January of last year, Brookings authors Michael Doran and William McCants, together with co-author Clint Watts, published an article calling Ahrar al Sham the “Al Qaeda-linked Group Worth Befriending”.

Lister denigrates evidence that Ahrar Al-Sham was led by an Al Qaeda leader and confidante of Ayman Al-Zawahiri as “a popular claim”, and attempts to pass along the claim by Ahrar Al Sham and other Islamist groups that they only fight alongside the Al Qaeda linked group in order to provide a “subtle counterbalance”.

Lister also quotes one local Syrian rebel describing Ahrar Al Sham  as “too “intellectually close” to the Muslim Brotherhood”, a description which ironically seems to fit Brookings Institute just as well.

Yet even while reminding us that “actions speak louder than words,” Lister doesn’t find fit to mention that Ahrar Al Sham has recently joined yet another coalition together with Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al Nusra and other AQ-linked outfits in Syria in order to form Ansar Al Sharia, coincidentally (or not) the same cover name used by Al Qaeda in Tunisia, Libya and Yemen.

Perhaps the last word on whether or not to take Ahrar Al Sham’s statements of moderation seriously comes from the Al-Qaeda linked group themselves. The group’s military commander Abu Saleh Tahhan recently tweeted in reference to their association with Al Nusra,

“Anyone who thinks we would sell out those close to us in exchange for the approval of strangers is an idiot, anyone who imagines that we would privilege a neighbor over someone from our own home is a fool…”

Hillary’s secret war

Hillary’s Illegal War Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

Hillary’s Illegal War Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

, July 1, 2015:

In the course of my work, I am often asked by colleagues to review and explain documents and statutes. Recently, in conjunction with my colleagues Catherine Herridge and Pamela Browne, I read the transcripts of an interview Ms. Browne did with a man named Marc Turi, and Ms. Herridge asked me to review emails to and from State Department and congressional officials during the years when Hillary Clinton was the secretary of state.

What I saw has persuaded me beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty that Mrs. Clinton provided material assistance to terrorists and lied to Congress in a venue where the law required her to be truthful. Here is the backstory.

Mr. Turi is a lawfully licensed American arms dealer. In 2011, he applied to the Departments of State and Treasury for approvals to sell arms to the government of Qatar. Qatar is a small Middle Eastern country whose government is so entwined with the U.S. government that it almost always will do what American government officials ask of it.

In its efforts to keep arms from countries and groups that might harm Americans and American interests, Congress has authorized the Departments of State and Treasury to be arms gatekeepers. They can declare a country or group to be a terrorist organization, in which case selling or facilitating the sale of arms to it is a felony. They also can license dealers to sell.

Mr. Turi sold hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of arms to the government of Qatar, which then, at the request of American government officials, were sold, bartered or given to rebel groups in Libya and Syria. Some of the groups that received the arms were on the U.S. terror list. Thus, the same State and Treasury Departments that licensed the sales also prohibited them.

How could that be?

That’s where Mrs. Clinton’s secret State Department and her secret war come in. Because Mrs. Clinton used her husband’s computer server for all of her email traffic while she was the secretary of state, a violation of three federal laws, few in the State Department outside her inner circle knew what she was up to.

Now we know.

She obtained permission from President Obama and consent from congressional leaders in both houses of Congress and in both parties to arm rebels in Syria and Libya in an effort to overthrow the governments of those countries.

Many of the rebels Mrs. Clinton armed, using the weapons lawfully sold to Qatar by Mr. Turi and others, were terrorist groups who are our sworn enemies. There was no congressional declaration of war, no congressional vote, no congressional knowledge beyond fewer than a dozen members, and no federal statute that authorized this.

When Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, asked Mrs. Clinton at a public hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 23, 2013, whether she knew about American arms shipped to the Middle East, to Turkey or to any other country, she denied any knowledge. It is unclear whether she was under oath at the time, but that is legally irrelevant. The obligation to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to Congress pertains to all witnesses who testify before congressional committees, whether an oath has been administered or not. (Just ask Roger Clemens, who was twice prosecuted for misleadingCongress about the contents of his urine while not under oath. He was acquitted.)

Here is her relevant testimony:

Mr. Paul: My question is is the U.S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons buying, selling anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya?

Mrs. Clinton: To Turkey? … I will have to take that question for the record. Nobody’s ever raised that with me. I, I .

Mr. Paul: It’s been in news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that they may have weapons and what I’d like to know is the [Benghazi] annex that was close by . Were they involved with procuring, buying, selling, obtaining weapons and were any of these weapons transferred to other countries any countries, Turkey included?

Mrs. Clinton: Senator, you will have to direct that question to the agency that ran the annex. And I will see what information is available and ahhhh .

Mr. Paul: You are saying you don’t know .

Mrs. Clinton: I do not know. I don’t have any information on that.

At the time that Mrs. Clinton denied knowledge of the arms shipments, she and her State Department political designee, Andrew Shapiro, had authorized thousands of shipments of billions of dollars’ worth of arms to U.S. enemies to fight her secret war. Among the casualties of her war were U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three colleagues, who were assassinated at the American consulate in Benghazi, by rebels Mrs. Clinton armed with American military hardware in violation of American law.

This secret war and the criminal behavior that animated it was the product of conspirators in the White House, the State Department, the Treasury Department, the Justice Department, the CIA and a tight-knit group of members of Congress. Their conspiracy has now unraveled. Where is the outrage among the balance of Congress?

Hillary Clinton lied to Congress, gave arms to terrorists and destroyed her emails. How much longer can she hide the truth? How much longer can her lawlessness go unchallenged and unprosecuted? Does she really think the American voters will overlook her criminal behavior and put her in the White House where she can pardon herself?

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is an analyst for the Fox News Channel. He has written seven books on the U.S. Constitution.

Birthday for A Caliphate

Reuters

Reuters

Breitbart, by Dr. Sebastian Gorka, June 29, 2015:

After Friday’s deadly jihadist attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait, Prime Mister David Cameron has stated that ISIS is an existential threat to the West. Today’s anniversary of the re-establishment of the Caliphate give us good cause to assess the threat to America in this, the first part of a two part piece by Dr. Sebastian Gorka.

One year ago, a man unknown to most of the world achieved a feat that has eluded Islamic extremists for the previous 90 years.

On June 29, 2015 Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, after almost a century of absence, formally reestablished the theocratic empire of Islam in a sermon from the pulpit of the Grand Mosque in Mosul. In the last year, his terror group, ISIS, which today we should call by its new name of the Islamic State, has grown to become the most dangerous insurgency of the modern era.

On September 10th, 2001 it would have been impossible to imagine that humans would soon be crucifying each other again, or that there would be an anti-American terrorist group able to capture and hold territory in multiple nations of the Middle East without Washington or her allies and partners being able to stunt its growth. We are now living in such a world. A world where innocent prisoners are burnt or drowned alive, or unbelievably decapitated with the use of detonating cord. A world in which hundreds of thousands have been killed in a civil war in Syria and an insurgency in Iraq, both together driving millions of survivors into refugees camps or into the hands of human traffickers.

The Islamic State that is at the center of this tragedy is a unique threat for four reasons:

  • Firstly, it is the richest group of its kind in modern history. No other sub-state actor has the resources available to IS. Since capturing city after city in Iraq it has netted close to a billion dollars from state coffers, augmenting this stupendous sum with illicit oil salesransoms, and the sale of plundered antiquities. This income will allow IS to continue operations for years to come, and not just in Iraq and Syria. (Note: according to the official 9/11 commission report, that stupendous attack only cost Al Qaeda $500,000).
  • Second, it is the first ever transnational insurgency. In the modern era of guerrilla warfare, the insurgent force was defined by its desire to defeat an incumbent government and replace it. This was true of Mao Tse Tung in China, or the FARC of Colombia, and all the other insurgencies of the 20th century. The Islamic State is an international insurgency recruiting as it does from Muslim communities all around the world and enjoying the sponsorship of more than one foreign government. However, it is also a transnational insurgency. Not only does it hold territory in both Iraq and Syria, with the intent of displacing both the Assad government and the government in Baghdad, it has the goal of destroying all regimes that it deems to be un-Islamic. The fact that Nigeria’s Boko Haram was recently accepted into IS and subsequently changed its name to The West Africa Province of the Islamic State means that Abu Bakr is now technically the Caliph or emperor of not only all IS land in the Middle East, but also former Boko Haram territory in Africa.
  • Third, in its ability to recruit jihadi fighters, the Islamic State has out surpassed Al Qaeda in every measure. Exact figures are impossible, but the best estimates are that, in the space of less than a year, the Islamic State has drawn 20,000 foreign fighters from around the globe, including Western Europe, Australia and North America. Al Qaeda, the original jihadi group responsible for the 9/11 attacks, did manage to attract foreign recruits, but never in the tens of thousands.
  • Lastly, and most problematically for any hope we may have for defeating IS, the Islamic State has built a global Social Media-based propaganda platform that is very sophisticated and effective and that the nations its wishes to destroy – America included – have been impotent to combat.

Alone, these four attributes would make any irregular threat like IS/ISIS a formidable enemy. Where it is located makes it a strategically deadly one.

Just like Judaism and Christianity, Islam has a very deep eschatology. The Sunna, or traditions of Islam, go into great detail about how the world will end and how all humans will be finally judged on the final day by Allah. Before that end comes, the religion is explicit that there will be a great final holy war, or Jihad, in the land of Al Shaam, the Arabic word for Greater Syria and the Levant, or the territory in which Abu Bakr has successfully established his new Caliphate. In fact, between its origins as Al Qaeda in Iraq and its current name of the Islamic State, the group specifically referred to itself as The Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham. As a result, Abu Bakr, the leader of the new Caliphate, has the eschatology of a faith followed by over 1 billion Muslims on his side. He knows that, by being successful on the ground that all Muslims know is the site of the last holy war before judgement day, he can rely on a steady stream of recruits for as long as there is no opposing ground force set against him in Al Sham.

Plainly put, in the last 12 months since he declared the new Caliphate, Abu Bakr has achieved more than Al Qaeda did in the preceding 13 years. Also, instead of being the “JV team” to Ayman al Zawahiri’s professional team, it is America that has presented itself as the amateur foe.

After Abu Bakr and his Al Qaeda in Iraq franchise was kicked out of the original terror group by Zawahiri for disobeying his orders, he took his small terrorist force in Syria from Iraq and used the civil war there to train and expand his force. As the bloodshed mounted both there and in an Iraq increasingly divided by the corruption and brutality of the Maliki regime, hundreds of thousands of local residents fell victim to the depredations of the competing fighting forces. Yet America decided not to respond. Having pulled our forces out of Iraq in 2011, we were unready and unable to respond to the growing threat. At the same time, President Obama made repeated statements about “red lines” that President Assad was not to cross. The lines were crossed but without triggering a US response. Not until thousands of Yazidis were hounded by ISIS up to the top of Mount Sinjar did the President decide to act by deploying air assets to target ISIS units on the ground.

The delay in an American response has cost America’s reputation in the Gulf dearly, perhaps more dearly than anything done by the administration of George W. Bush. As it was recently explained to me by a very senior U.S. General with responsibilities in the region: “Our Sunni allies just don’t trust us anymore. The region already runs on conspiracy theories, but after the Sunni see more than 200,000 of their people murdered in the last three years and we do nothing until a minority sect is attacked, they draw the conclusion that we are on the side of the mullahs and the Shia revival.”

If one agrees with the summary by Prime Minister Netanyahu that the violence on the Middle East and North Africa cannot be understood unless seen as “a game of thrones” for the crown of the caliphate between the Shia and Sunni extremists, then it is obvious that giving the impression that we have already chosen sides will only feed the flames of war. Especially when this impression is apparently confirmed by every additional concession made by the White House to Tehran in the hopes of closing a nuclear deal with the Revolutionary Republic.

Nor can these threats any longer be relegated to events happening far away. As the targeting of Pamela Geller’s free speech event in Garland, Texas by two armed jihadis demonstrates, those who wish to impose a puritanical and violent version of Islam upon America and her citizens are already here. And Garland is not a one-off. The FBI has confirmed that the Bureau already has ongoing IS-related investigations underway in every state of the Republic. Recently, the first IS recruiter was arrested in New Jersey. And in preparation for this article I had a research assistant simply collect all open-source reports of IS arrests and plots uncovered in the US in the last 24 months. We found 56!

When will America take the threat of a hyper-violent organization with tens of thousands of adherents who wish to destroy America seriously? When did we take Al Qaeda seriously? On September 12th, 2001. At the moment, short of a mass-casualty attack occurring on US soil in a way that links the perpetrators directly to the Islamic State, it seems highly unlikely that the Obama administration will truly take the fight to IS. Of the 400+ troops the White House has decided to deploy to Iraq to help train the trainers, less than 150 will in fact work on that mission, with the rest providing security to the trainers. The Islamic State has more than 30,000 active jihadis, more than half of whom were recruited from abroad. And the most powerful nation in the world can only spare an extra 150 trainers? As another senior officer recently commented in front of a meeting of US generals: “Every day that ISIS still exists and the most powerful nation in the world does nothing, we can chalk another propaganda victory up to the jihadis.”

Consequently, it seems unavoidable that IS will continue to grow and spread its barbarity until a new Commander-in-Chief is sworn in. The good news is that in an election campaign that is already underway and which almost each day sees the cornucopia of at least the Republic candidates increase, national security is at last back on the front burner, or rather both front burners. As a result we may have a chance after November 2016 to engage our newest enemy in the way the jihadists deserve.

The details of a possible strategy that could be used to measure the candidates will follow in Part Two.

Sebastian Gorka Ph.D. is the Major General Matthew C. Horner Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University. You can see his briefing from the Global Counterterrorism Summit on Why ISIS is Much More Dangerous than Al Qaeda here and follow him on Twitter at: @SebGorka.

Exclusive: The Arming of Benghazi

062615_web_arms_0Fox Business, by Catherine Herridge and Pamela Browne, June 27, 2015:

The United States supported the secret supply of weapons to Libyan rebels while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State according to federal court documents obtained by Fox News.

In a sworn declaration to the District Court of Arizona May 5th 2015, a career CIA officer David Manners said, “It was then, and remains now, my opinion that the United States did participate, directly or indirectly, in the supply of weapons to the Libyan Transitional National Council.”   The timing matters because in the Spring of 2011 the Libyan opposition was not formally recognized, and the direct supply of arms was not authorized. At that time, the CIA Director was David Petraeus. (DAVID MANNERS DOCUMENT HERE)

Manners testified before a grand jury investigating American defense contractor Marc Turi who faces trial this September on two counts that he allegedly violated the arms control export act by making false statements.

Turi and his company Turi Defense Group are at the center of an ongoing federal investigation over the source and user of weapons defined in court documents as “end user” or “end use”  flowing into Libya as Moammar Qaddafi’s regime was collapsing in 2011.

In “United States of America v. Marc Turi and Turi Defense Group,”  Manners identifies himself as having 18 years experience as an intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency or CIA, with foreign postings as Chief of Station in Prague, Czechoslovakia and in Amman, Jordan.  Manners also stated he was “the executive assistant to the Deputy Director of the National Security Agency.”

Manners’ declaration supports statements made exclusively to FOX News by Turi about what President Obama’s team and members of Congress knew about weapons flowing into the region  during the chaotic Arab Spring of 2011.

“When this equipment landed in Libya, half went one way, and the half went the other way,”  Turi said, emphasizing that poor oversight, allowed individuals hostile to the United States to get arms.  “The half that went the other way is the half that ended up in Syria.”

As part of Fox’s ongoing investigation of the 2012 terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, as well as former Navy Seals Ty Woods and Glen Doherty, Turi spoke exclusively to FOX Senior Executive Producer Pamela Browne.   The investigation premiered on “FOX Files” on the FOX BUSINESS NETWORK.

Turi was one of several thousand US arms contractors licensed by the State Department to sell and move weapons around the world.  He’s been a go to guy for the US government, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I got involved in this business in the 1990s,”  Turi explained. “I’ve been involved in all type of operations, regarding transportation, logistics, and liaising with those foreign governments.”

Turi admits to a criminal history.  He told Fox that in the late 1980’s, he stole a computer, his roommate’s car, and wrote bad checks including one for $100,000 dollars.  Through court records, Fox News verified he was arrested, convicted, and served time in an Arizona jail.

“In my youth, I made some very very bad mistakes…I was discharged from the United States Navy other under than honorable conditions…and I’ve been fighting ever since to get that honor back.”   (TURI DISCHARGE DOCUMENT HERE)

Licensed arms contractors require painstaking compliance in order to obtain the necessary approvals set by strict US government regulations. While Hillary Clinton served as President Obama’s Secretary of State, American arms dealers were awarded a record number of export licenses to sell sophisticated weapons, military parts and technology internationally.

“That’s actually been a huge, policy position, of the Obama Administration,”  Celina Realuyo, a professor of national security at the Perry Center at the National Defense University explained to FOX. Realuyo has served two presidents with expertise in tracking down money and weaponry used in what are called “dark networks” that can channel weapons to criminal and designated foreign terrorist organizations.

More than 86-thousand licenses with a value of $44.3 billion dollars were granted in 2011… a surge of more than $10 billion dollars from the previous year.

In the spring of 2011, Turi says his high level contacts both inside and outside of the US government, encouraged him to explore options to arm the Libyan opposition as they tried to overthrow then Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi.  He says his associates included David Manners, a former intelligence officer with the CIA who stated his expertise to the court as an expert with knowledge of “authorized covert arms transfers.”

Turi provided documents and email exchanges with high level members of Congress as well as military, and State Department employees which are currently being reviewed by Fox News.

Turi said, “That’s where I came up with this “zero footprint” Arab supply chain whereby, our foreign ally supplies another, Arab country.”  In this case, the US would supply conventional weapons to a US ally-Qatar, who would inturn supply them to Libya, as a kind of workaround.

“If you want to  limit the exposure to the US government, what you simply do is outsource it to your allies,”  Turi said, describing the practice. “The partners-the Qataris, and the Emiratis did exactly what they were contracted to do.”  Turi told Fox he never supplied any weapons to Qatar, and it was in the hands of the US government and the State Department’s Bureau of Political and Military Affairs which was headed by a key Clinton aide, Andrew Shapiro.  Mr. Shapiro was responsible to oversee the export control process at the State Department.

March 2011 was a busy time for Hillary Clinton.  Even today, congressional investigators doubt they have all of the emails from her personal server when she was Secretary of State.   On the 14th, along with Chris Stevens, who was then the number two man in Libya serving as the embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Clinton met with Libya’s Mustafa Jibril in Paris– a senior member of the TNC.  The next day, Secretary Clinton met with Egypt’s new foreign minister Nabil el Arabi in Cairo and walked through Tahrir Square with her senior adviser Huma Abedin.  At the same time, Turi’s proposal, a 267-million dollar contract, was working its way through US government channels.

“My application was submitted on the 12th,”  Turi said his contacts gave the proposal to the then Secretary of State.  “…through their relationship with the TNC, then provided that application information to Mrs. Clinton via the TNC council when she was in Cairo. That’s what was told to me…and emailed. ”

Turi provided  Fox News with emails he exchanged – in early April 2011 – with Chris Stevens to alert him  to the proposed weapons deal.  The emails were previously cited by the New York Times, but Fox News is now making the message traffic public. (CHRIS STEVENS EMAIL DOCUMENT HERE)

Stevens replied with a “thank you ” and wrote  “I’ll keep it in mind and share it with my colleagues in Washington.”

As FOX Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge first reported, it was a heavily redacted email released to the Benghazi Committee last month that clearly states that on April 8, 2011, a day after the Turi/Stevens exchange, Secretary Clinton was interested in arming the rebels using contractors:

“FYI. The idea of using private security experts to arm the opposition should be considered,” Clinton wrote.  Significantly, the State Department released emails blacked out this line, but the version given to the Benghazi Select Committee was complete. (CLINTON EMAIL DOCUMENT HERE)

In May 2011, Turi got a brokering approval from the State Department for Qatar.  In July, his Arizona home was raided by federal agents.

“They came in  the full body armor, and weapons and, they take my computers and my cell phones and that was it. That was the last time I saw them. And they’ve been chasing me all over the world for the past three years, speaking to associates of mine all over the United States and looking into my records and my past.”

His attorney Jean-Jacques Cabou told Fox in a series of emails that his client had a track record working for the “US government through the Central Intelligence Agency” and the government case is an “epic fishing expedition.”  Adding his client”…neither lied on any application nor did he do anything other than support U.S. foreign policy and interests in the Middle East.”

Turi believes his “zero footprint” idea was stolen out from under him, and now he is being blamed for a program that went off the rails.

Such are the stakes in this case, that the Justice Department National Security Division is involved, and recently requested that some proceedings remain secret under CIPA, the Classified Information Procedures Act.   The Federal Judge wrote on June 16 “the government can seek protection under CIPA 4 in this case only by complying with Ninth Circuit law by making a formal claim of privilege, lodged by the head of the department which has actual control over the discoverable information.”

In his sworn declaration to the court, Manners said his grand jury testimony on covert arms transfers was cut off by the government lawyer. “As a result of the Assistant United States Attorney’s actions, I believe that (a) the grand jury never received a full and complete picture of authorized covert arms transfers and their relevance to the present case. ”

“At some point, I may be that internet video excuse,”  Turi said, referring to statements where then Secretary of Clinton and members of the Obama Administration wrongly blamed an obscure anti-Islam video for the 2012 terrorist attack that killed four Americans.    “I don’t know.  But, it’s really strange that the US government would invest three years, a multi-year investigation, fly all over the world interviewing people, for an application.”

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

House Subcommittee Hearing on “Intelligence Void” involved in admitting Syrian Refugees

3927540564CSP, by Alessandra Gennarelli, June 24, 2015:

Wednesday, June 24th, the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security held a hearing titled “Admitting Syrian refugees: The Intelligence Void and the Emerging Homeland Security Threat.” This hearing addressed the issue of the FBI’s inability to vet incoming Syrian and Iraqi refugees that could have terrorist ties.

Chairman Representative Peter King (R-NY) started by stating that “Americans opening doors to those who flee violence is a part of who we are” giving examples to past refugee success stories such as Albert Einstein, before summarizing the security threat in Iraq and Syria and the “vulnerabilities in the screening process.”

Rep. King went on to highlight the threat of “refugees who take advantage of the safe haven,” stating that the “savagery of ISIS” has caused the “worlds biggest refugee crisis.” He stated that the area has a “lack of stable foreign governments” and the “information and intelligence we are able to acquire is limited and often times unverifiable.”

Rep. King ended his opening statement by saying that while America “should not close [it’s] doors” it should be “thoughtful and intuitive with the most assurance that we are not importing terrorists” and that the panel testifying should “solicit recommendations on additional measures that should be taken.”

In his opening statement, Dr. Seth Jones, the director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation, warned that a “growing number of attacks in the US are linked back to this region” and that there are “4 million refugees based in the Syrian province.” He went on to say that Syria has the “highest number of foreign fighters, several [terrorist] groups in the region have planned to put operatives in the west including Europe, and the US intelligence understanding [in the area] is worse.” He summarized by saying that the “US does have a long standing tradition of offering asylum … however an integral part is insuring that those refugees including those in jihadist battlefields do not present a risk to safety and security in the west.”

Thomas Fuentes, former FBI Assistant Director, followed by stating that the International Police Cooperation or Interpol, is “essential in everything we do” and that lack of working partners in Syria, specifically the lack of police and government in the region, is a large reason the FBI does not have the capabilities to vet incoming refugees from the area. Thomas Fuentes stated that he has served as a member of the Executive Committee of Interpol and opened an FBI office in Baghdad, which was a crucial resource for intelligence on the area. He continued to state that a lack of government in Syria deeply affects America’s ability to gain information concerning refugees in the area.

Daveed Gartenstein- Ross, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense Democracies, began his opening statement discussing the interest the country should have in “alleviating the situation in Syria.” He added that if a terrorist group should decide to pose a terrorist as a refugee they would have to “land in a refugee camp and get picked up in the lottery process by the UN” to be chosen to come here. He continued in saying that the radicalization process of those already in the United States is the bigger problem. He gave the example of someone in the United States who has an interest in Syria and looks at the terrorist group al- Nusra as cooperative as having an alleviated risk of radicalization than imported refugees. He also stated that the declining domestic product causes a risk in handling these problems, and that a reevaluation of the US migration policy is in order. He ended by stating that the US has a bad reputation of “not standing by those who help us” and that we need to “focus on our obligation to Iraqis and Afghans who assisted U.S. efforts in these countries.”

Rep. King then asked the panel whether Jordan could be relied upon to help in the vetting process. Fuentes answered by stating that the United States has an excellent relationship with the Jordanians and their intelligence is excellent. Dr. Jones agreed in saying that Jordan does have the best handle on the problem but that there should be a layered system in which our intelligence program follows the Jordanian vetting process, and that we should not rely on anyone else to do this process for us.

Congressman Lou Barletta (R- PA) asked, “How would you access the intelligence communities to properly vet refugees for admission?” Dr. Jones commented that Syria has far fewer human collectors, intelligence capabilities and has a much weaker ability to collect information useful for the vetting process.”

Fuentes then went on to point out that since “refugees are enemies of the state, we cannot rely on that state to vet them properly.”

The witnesses were then asked about helping these refugees in ways other than bringing them into the country. Daveed answered saying that the American public has a strong duty and that “actually addressing the situation over there is important.” He commented that we could “improve the situation in camps and provide job and educational opportunities.” He supported thinking about helping the issue in the area of origin and that it would be “the best use of money.” Fuentes agreed with providing resources “that would make camps more livable” but warned that the length of time that this aid would be provided would determine the timing of terrorism, because these groups would wait until the program ends to send their men through refugee camps.

Rep. Keating (D- MA) asked about the internal intelligence found on the ground with limited people there. Dr. Jones answered that while “capabilities are better today than a few years ago … better doesn’t mean good.”

Chairman King asked about maintaining surveillance on those entering the United States as Syrian refugees. Fuentes quickly answered saying the FBI cannot track these people “unless there is a predication or indication that the person is involved in criminal activity” and that tracking a large population such as all Syrian refugees is not plausible as the amount observed has to be narrowed down before it can be initiated. Daveed followed by saying that the US vetting system is “very antiquated.”

Chairman King concluded the hearing by saying there is currently “no real answer” to the problem, and “there is still going to be risks there no matter what process we follow.” However, it is “in our national interest that something be done and we are going to have to find a way to do it…

Is Kurdistan Rising?

The State of the Kurds  WSJ 6-20-15

NER, by Jerry Gordon, June 21, 2015:

In the Wall Street Journal Weekend edition, June 20-21, 2015, Yaroslav Trofimov writes of the possible rise of an independent Kurdistan, “The State of The Kurds”.  An independent Kurdistan was promised by the WWI Allies in the Treaty of Sevres that ended the Ottoman Empire in 1920. That commitment was dashed by the rise of Turkish Republic under the secularist Kemal Atatürk confirmed in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne denying an independent Kurdistan in what is now Eastern Turkey. Combined a future Kurdistan encompassing eastern Turkey, Northern Syria, northwest Iran and northern Iraq might comprise a landlocked republic of 30 million with significant energy and agricultural resources.  The rise of Kurdistan is reflected in these comments in the Trofimov WSJ review article:

Selahattin Demirtas, Chairman of the HDP party in Turkey:

The Kurds’ existence was not recognized; they were hidden behind a veil. But now, after being invisible for a century, they are taking their place on the international stage. Today, international powers can no longer resolve any issue in the Middle East without taking into account the interests of the Kurds.

Tahir Elçi, a prominent Kurdish lawyer and chairman of the bar in Diyarbakir, Turkey:

In the past, when the Kurds sought self-rule, the Turks, the Persians and the Arabs were all united against it. Today that’s not true anymore—it’s not possible for the Shiite government in Iraq and Shiite Iran to work together against the Kurds with the Sunni Turkey and the Sunni ISIS. In this environment, the Kurds have become a political and a military power in the Middle East.

Elçi, amplifies a concern that Sherkoh Abbas, leader of the Kurdish National Syria Assembly (KURDNAS) has expressed in several NER interviews an articles with him:

The PKK has made important steps to adopt more democratic ways. But you cannot find the same climate of political diversity in [Kurdish] Syria as you find in [northern Iraq], and this is because of PKK’s authoritarian and Marxist background. This is a big problem.

As effective as the KRG government and peshmerga have been in pushing back at ISIS forces threatening the capital of Erbil, the real problem is the divisiveness in the political leadership. That is reflected in the comment of  Erbil province’s governor, Nawaf Hadi cited by Trofimov:

For 80 years, the Arab Sunni people led Iraq—and they destroyed Kurdistan. Now we’ve been for 10 years with the Shiite people [dominant in Baghdad], and they’ve cut the funding and the salaries—how can we count on them as our partner in Iraq?” All the facts on the ground encourage the Kurds to be independent.

That renewed prospect reflects the constellation of  events in Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

Supporters cheer Selahattin Demirtas, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, HDP, in Istanbul, Turkey, in May, 2015. Source: Emrah Gurel/AP

Supporters cheer Selahattin Demirtas, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP, in Istanbul, Turkey, in May, 2015. Source: Emrah Gurel/AP

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Also see:

Clinton Silent as Number of Worldwide Refugees Reaches Record Level

AP

AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Daniel Wiser, June 23, 2015:

Hillary Clinton’s policies as secretary of state failed to address several crises that have produced a record number of displaced persons worldwide, according to a Republican group that also noted her lack of a commemoration for World Refugee Day.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a report last week that there were 59.5 million people who were forcibly displaced at the end of 2014, the largest number ever recorded. More than half of the displaced persons were children. Refugee levels spiked in the Middle East, Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa, all regions where Clinton’s policies faced criticism during her tenure as secretary of state.

America Rising PAC, a GOP opposition research firm, pointed out that Clinton—the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president—did not make a statement on World Refugee Day, this past Saturday.

“Secretary Clinton’s silence on World Refugee Day was extremely telling,” Colin Reed, executive director of America Rising, said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon. “Under her failed leadership at the State Department, the world became less stable and more dangerous, and her policies led to the global unrest that has contributed to the number of refugees reaching record levels.”

The UNHCR said one of the main contributors to the burgeoning refugee total is the four-year civil war in Syria, where an average of 42,500 people were displaced each day of last year. Syria has the world’s most internally displaced people (7.6 million) as well as refugees that have fled to other countries (3.88 million).

In March 2011, Clinton said the United States did not intervene in Syria because of the perception that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was a “reformer.” Critics later derided Clinton for the comment when Assad escalated his crack down on the country’s opposition and began to kill his own people, including with chemical weapons. The civil war has claimed more than 200,000 lives.

Clinton reportedly supported efforts to arm more moderate rebels early in the civil war but failed to persuade President Obama to do so.

Terrorist groups, including al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS), capitalized on the chaos in the Syrian war to expand their territory. In June 2014, IS launched an offensive across the Syrian border into western and northern Iraq, seizing the key city of Mosul and eventually other cities in Iraq’s Anbar province. More than 3.3 million Iraqis have been displaced by IS.

Last June, Clinton said she “could not have predicted the extent to which [IS] could be effective in seizing cities in Iraq and trying to erase boundaries to create an Islamist state.” Intelligence officials have said their efforts to monitor IS were made more difficult by the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011. Clinton largely supported the removal of U.S. forces from Iraq and dismissed criticism of the Obama administration, which was unable to secure a status of forces agreement permitting a residual troop presence.

In Ukraine, the conflict between the Ukrainian military and Russian-backed separatists has displaced1.2 million people in the country and resulted in more than 6,000 deaths since last April. Clinton infamously presented a “reset” button to Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, in 2009 to promote more cooperation between the two countries, though the Russian word on the button actually translated into “overcharged.” Amid Russia’s ongoing destabilization of Ukraine and continued support for Assad, the reset policy is now widely regarded as a misguided move. Nonetheless, Clinton said last year that the reset “worked” on issues such as nuclear nonproliferation and the transport of supplies to U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Additionally, the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram has forced more than 1.5 million people, including 800,000 children, to abandon their homes. Hundreds of Nigerian teachers and schoolchildren were killed last year. Despite pressure from some U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, Clinton declined to name Boko Haram a terrorist group while she was secretary of state. Sen. David Vitter (R., La.) has speculated that Clinton’s decision might be related to Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian construction magnate and Clinton Foundation donor with substantial business interests in the country.

A Clinton spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on World Refugee Day and her policies as secretary of state.

Also see:

ISIS Is Following a Plan Laid Out Ten Years Ago by Al-Qaeda, and It’s All Working

-, -:  (FILES) -- A TV grab from the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera news channel dated 17 June 2005 shows Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri delivering a speech at an undisclosed location with a machine gun next to him. Al-Zawahiri, in a video posted on the Internet 29 September 2006, called US President George W Bush a liar who had "failed in his war against Al-Qaeda", Al-Jazeera television reported. The previous day, Islamist websites on the Internet had said there would be a new video message posted by Zawahiri entitled " Bush, the pope, Darfur and the Crusades."  AFP PHOTO/AL-JAZEERA  -- QATAR OUT & INTERNET OUT --  (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

-, -: (FILES) — A TV grab from the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera news channel dated 17 June 2005 shows Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri delivering a speech at an undisclosed location with a machine gun next to him. Al-Zawahiri, in a video posted on the Internet 29 September 2006, called US President George W Bush a liar who had “failed in his war against Al-Qaeda”, Al-Jazeera television reported. The previous day, Islamist websites on the Internet had said there would be a new video message posted by Zawahiri entitled ” Bush, the pope, Darfur and the Crusades.” AFP PHOTO/AL-JAZEERA — QATAR OUT & INTERNET OUT — (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

PJ Media, by Robert Spencer, June 19, 2015:

It has been almost a year since June 29, 2014, when the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) declared the formation of a new caliphate and dropped the second half of its name, rebranding itself as simply the Islamic State. It has survived nine months since Barack Obama vowed to “degrade and ultimately destroy” it.

It has survived, and has continued to attract Muslims from all over the world, even after virtually every major world leader and Islamic group has condemned it as un-Islamic. And it shows no sign of going anywhere anytime soon.

All this is well-known. What is less known is that the plan for the restoration of the caliphate was sketched out ten years ago by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and has been followed out more or less exactly by the Islamic State.

The claim to reconstitute the caliphate is the key to the Islamic State’s success — the importance of this cannot be overstated.

The revival of the caliphate is, in the eyes of those who support it and have longed for it all these years, a return to the form of government of the glory days of Islam. From Muhammad’s death through Islam’s Golden Age up until the breakup of the Ottoman Empire after the end of World War I, Muslims were ruled by a caliph, the successor to Muhammad as spiritual and political leader of Islam.

And the declaration of the caliphate, and its placement in and around Syria and Iraq, was not an invention of the Islamic State, or incidental to what it perceived as its mission from the beginning. In reality, a new caliphate had long been an aspiration dear to the hearts of many jihadi terrorists, including al-Qaeda.

Bin Laden’s lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahiri wrote to the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq (which ultimately became the Islamic State), Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, on July 9, 2005:

It has always been my belief that the victory of Islam will never take place until a Muslim state is established in the manner of the Prophet in the heart of the Islamic world, specifically in the Levant, Egypt, and the neighboring states of the Peninsula and Iraq; however, the center would be in the Levant and Egypt.

Zawahiri also heaped praise on Zarqawi for helping bring that state — the revived caliphate — closer to reality:

If our intended goal in this age is the establishment of a caliphate in the manner of the Prophet and if we expect to establish its state predominantly — according to how it appears to us — in the heart of the Islamic world, then your efforts and sacrifices — God permitting — are a large step directly towards that goal.

Zawahiri then offered Zarqawi his “humble opinion that the Jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals,” the first of which was to “expel the Americans from Iraq.” The second stage, wrote Zarqawi, would be exactly what the Islamic State ended up doing nine years later:

The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority or amirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate — over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq, i.e., in Sunni areas, is in order to fill the void stemming from the departure of the Americans, immediately upon their exit and before un-Islamic forces attempt to fill this void, whether those whom the Americans will leave behind them, or those among the un-Islamic forces who will try to jump at taking power.

Following the establishment of this state, the third stage would be to “extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq,” followed by the fourth stage, which “may coincide with what came before: the clash with Israel, because Israel was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity.”

Zawahiri wrote in an extremely deferential manner to Zarqawi, repeatedly assuring the Iraq commander that his analysis was not “infallible.” Nonetheless, he did not hesitate to give him direction, emphasizing that:

The mujahedeen must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal.

If they did that:

We will return to having the secularists and traitors holding sway over us. Instead, their ongoing mission is to establish an Islamic state, and defend it, and for every generation to hand over the banner to the one after it until the Hour of Resurrection.

Zawihiri summed up the “two short-term goals” as “removing the Americans and establishing an Islamic amirate in Iraq, or a caliphate if possible.” Attaining them, he wrote, would ensure possession of “the strongest weapon which the mujahedeen enjoy — after the help and granting of success by God,” which was “popular support from the Muslim masses in Iraq, and the surrounding Muslim countries.”

But al-Qaeda itself hesitated to declare a caliphate for fear that the Americans would nip it in the bud. A letter from Osama bin Laden, found in the trove of documents at the Abbottabad compound and declassified in May 2015, explained:

We should stress on the importance of timing in establishing the Islamic State. We should be aware that planning for the establishment of the state begins with exhausting the main influential power that enforced the siege on the Hamas government, and that overthrew the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan and Iraq despite the fact this power was depleted. We should keep in mind that this main power still has the capacity to lay siege on any Islamic State, and that such a siege might force the people to overthrow their duly elected governments. We have to continue with exhausting and depleting them till they become so weak that they can’t overthrow any State that we establish. That will be the time to commence with forming the Islamic state.

Bin Laden saw the restoration of the caliphate as the ultimate goal of al-Qaeda’s activities:

[T]he result that we deployed for … to reinstate the wise Caliphate and eliminate the disgrace and humiliation that our nation is suffering from.

But he argued against “insisting on the formation of an Islamic State at the time being” — and instead wanted his followers:

… to work on breaking the power of our main enemy by attacking the American embassies in the African countries, such as Sierra Leone, Togo, and mainly to attack the American oil companies.

Bin Laden was overcautious. The Islamic State established itself as the new caliphate and has thrived, and no one seems to have the will to do what is necessary to “degrade and destroy” it in any real sense. And so its first anniversary is unlikely to be its last.

State Department: Terror Attacks Increased 35% Between 2013 and 2014

French riot police officers run past a burning truck in Paris suburb, Aulnay-sous-Bois, early Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005. Britain's struggle to contain Muslim extremism points up a chilling trend across Europe: the rise of radical Islam, and with it, a willingness among a small but dangerous minority of young people to answer the call to jihad. From the squalid suburbs north of Paris to the gritty streets of Sarajevo, young disaffected Muslims are increasingly receptive to hard-liners looking to recruit foot soldiers for holy war, European counterterrorism officials and religious leaders warn. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

French riot police officers run past a burning truck in Paris suburb, Aulnay-sous-Bois, early Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005. Britain’s struggle to contain Muslim extremism points up a chilling trend across Europe: the rise of radical Islam, and with it, a willingness among a small but dangerous minority of young people to answer the call to jihad. From the squalid suburbs north of Paris to the gritty streets of Sarajevo, young disaffected Muslims are increasingly receptive to hard-liners looking to recruit foot soldiers for holy war, European counterterrorism officials and religious leaders warn. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Washington Free Beacon, by Blake Seitz, June 19, 2015:

The Associated Press reported Friday that terror attacks have increased 35 percent between 2013 and 2014. Deaths due to terrorist attacks have spiked by 81 percent.

The news comes from the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism, which will be officially released later on Friday.

Terror attacks in 2014 were “exceptionally lethal,” with 20 attacks claiming more than 100 victims.

The AP reports that “increased terror activity has been observed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Nigeria,” with the highest number of attacks occurring in Iraq, where the Islamic State has capitalized on the power vacuum created by U.S. withdrawal in 2011.

CNN reports that the publication singles out Islamic State and Boko Haram as terrorist groups gaining momentum, stealing recruits from traditional terror groups like Al Qaeda.

The report claims that the four-year-old Syrian civil war, which has claimed over 200,000 lives and displaced 40 percent of the country’s population, was a catalyst for terror and unrest elsewhere in the Middle East.

According to the report, more than 16,000 foreign fighters entered Syria in 2014, most of whom went to fight for IS.

The report claims that this number “exceeded the rate of foreign fighters who traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen or Somalia at any point in the last 20 years.”

The Islamic State’s strength is a matter of much debate, but some analysts estimate the group has more than 50,000 fighters—enough to replace battlefield casualties it has sustained from intense fighting in Syria and Iraq.

While much of the increased terrorist activity has occurred in the disorderly Middle East, Americans traveling abroad were not safe from harm. Twenty-four Americans were killed by terror attacks in 2014.

Also see:

A new strategy for Iraq and Syria

Iraq forcesWashington Post, by Charles Krauthammer, June 18, 2015:

It’s time to rethink Iraq and Syria. It begins by admitting that the old borders are gone, that a unified Syria or Iraq will never be reconstituted, that the Sykes-Picot map is defunct.

We may not want to enunciate that policy officially. After all, it does contradict the principle that colonial borders be maintained no matter how insanely drawn, the alternative being almost universally worse. Nonetheless, in Mesopotamia, balkanization is the only way to go.

Because it has already happened and will not be reversed. In Iraq, for example, we are reaping one disaster after another by pretending that the Baghdad government — deeply sectarian, divisive and beholden to Iran — should be the center of our policy and the conduit for all military aid.

Look at Fallujah, Mosul, Ramadi. The Iraqi army is a farce. It sees the enemy and flees, leaving its weapons behind. “The ISF was not driven out of Ramadi. They drove out of Ramadi,” said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Our own secretary of defense admitted that “the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight.”

We can train them forever. The problem is one of will. They don’t want to fight. And why should they? They are led by commanders who are corrupt, sectarian and incompetent.

What to do? Redirect our efforts to friendly forces deeply committed to the fight, beginning with the Kurds, who have the will, the skill and have demonstrated considerable success. This year alone, they have taken back more than 500 Christian and Kurdish towns from the Islamic State. Unlike the Iraqi army, however, they are starved for weapons because, absurdly, we send them through Baghdad, which sends along only a trickle.

This week, more Kurdish success. With U.S. air support, Syrian Kurds captured the strategic town of Tal Abyad from the Islamic State. Which is important for two reasons. Tal Abyad controls the road connecting the terror group’s capital of Raqqa to Turkey, from which it receives fighters, weapons and supplies. Tal Abyad is “a lung through which [the Islamic State] breathed and connected to the outside world,” said Kurdish commander Haqi Kobane.

Moreover, Tal Abyad helps link isolated Kurdish areas in the Syrian north into a contiguous territory, like Iraqi Kurdistan. Which suggests that this territory could function as precisely the kind of long-advocated Syrian “safe zone” from which to operate against both the Islamic State and the Bashar al-Assad regime.

More good news comes from another battle line. Last week, the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front, backed by and trained in Jordan, drove the Syrian government out of its last major base in eastern Daraa province, less than 60 miles from Damascus.

These successes suggest a new U.S. strategy. Abandon our anachronistic fealty to the central Iraqi government (now largely under Iran’s sway anyway) and begin supplying the Iraqi Kurds in a direct, 24-hour, Berlin-style airlift. And in Syria, intensify our training, equipping and air support for the now-developing Kurdish safe zone. Similarly, through Jordan, for the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front. Such a serious and relentless strategy would not only roll back Islamic State territorial gains, it would puncture the myth of Islamic State invincibility.

In theory, we should also be giving direct aid to friendly Sunni tribesmen in Iraq whose Anbar Awakening, brilliantly joined by Gen. David Petraeus’ surge, utterly defeated the Islamic State progenitor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, in 2006-2007. The problem is, having been abandoned by us once, when President Obama liquidated our presence in 2011, why should the Sunnis ever trust us again?

***

A Plan to Defeat ISIS

Published on Jun 18, 2015 by securefreedom

Center for Security Policy Exec. VP Jim Hanson announced CSP’s plan to topple that Caliphate and Defeat ISIS at the National Security Luncheon held at the Capitol Visitor’s Center 17 July 2015

Also see:

U.S. Arms Sales to Lebanon Empowering Hezbollah, Iran

Hezbollah fighters on parade / AP

Hezbollah fighters on parade / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, June 12, 2015:

Newly announced U.S. arms sales to Lebanon coincide with an Obama administration order to cut funding for an anti-Hezbollah Lebanese group, a move foreign policy insiders describe as empowering the Iranian backers of the terrorist group.

Critics are viewing the cut to anti-Hezbollah efforts as another concession by the administration to Iran—which controls and funds Hezbollah—ahead of attempts to finalize a nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic ahead of a June 30 deadline.

Newly disclosed documents reveal that the Obama administration quietly decided in April to cut funds for Hayya Bina, a leading anti-Hezbollah group in Lebanon, “due to a recent shift in Department of State priorities in Lebanon,” according to a letter notifying the group of the funding cuts.

Soon after this move, the United States announced that it would deliver a slew of new weapons to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), which has come under intense criticism for its close relationship with Hezbollah and its efforts to bolster the group’s activities in Syria.

The timing of these decisions by the Obama administration has prompted Middle East leaders and foreign policy insiders to accuse the administration of endorsing Hezbollah and shifting the United States’ regional priorities to be more in line with Iran’s.

The State Department, in its letter, ordered that “all activities [by Hayya Bina] intended [to] foster an independent moderate Shia voice be ceased immediately and indefinitely.”

This directly affects the group’s efforts to provide an alternative to Hezbollah, which is an extremist Shiite Muslim militant group.

On Wednesday, the State Department marked the delivery of more than 200 TOW-II missiles and “dozens of launchers to the LAF,” according to a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.

The military hardware cost more than $10 million and was jointly funded by the United States and Saudi Arabia, according to the State Department.

Around $82.5 million in weapons and ammunition have been provided to the LAF since August 2014.

Additionally, the Pentagon announced this week that it is considering selling Lebanon six A-29 Super Tucano aircraft and support equipment as well as logistical support.

The sale is estimated to cost $462 million, the Pentagon said.

“The Government of Lebanon has requested a possible sale of six A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, eight PT6A-68A Turboprop engines, eight ALE-47 Countermeasure Dispensing Systems, two thousand Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems, eight AN/AAR-60(V)2 Missile Launch Detection Systems, non-SAASM Embedded Global Positioning System/Initial Navigation System (EGIs), spare and repair parts, flight testing, maintenance support, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, ferry support, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support,” according to the Pentagon.

The sale “will provide Lebanon with a much needed Close Air Support (CAS) platform to meet present and future challenges posed by internal and border security threats,” according to the Pentagon. “The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”

However, regional experts disagree with this assessment. They argue that given the LAF’s close relationship with Hezbollah, the arms will support the terror group’s military efforts to bolster Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s embattled president.

The LAF is “basically protecting Hezbollah’s rear and flank on the Lebanese side of the border, which in turn allows Hezbollah to run its operations more freely across the border in Syria,” said Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) who first broke the news of the anti-Hezbollah funds being cut.

“They are essentially acting as an auxiliary force for Hezbollah in Lebanon,” he said, adding, the LAF has “taken on the role of securing the same areas Hezbollah is trying to secure. There’s an overlap and it goes to help sustain Hezbollah’s effort in Syria.”

U.S. assistance to the LAF helps Hezbollah continue its fight in Syria, Badran said.

America is “helping the Lebanese seal the border only in one direction, not both directions,” Badran explained. “We’re helping Lebanon, and thus Hezbollah, against anything coming in from the Syrian side, but not to totally seal the border, which would prevent Hezbollah from continuing its war” in Syria.

“We’re facilitating this war in a way,” Badran explained.” That’s the context of the arms. They’re being deployed in a manner that relieves Hezbollah and assists its war effort.”

All of this activity ultimately boosts Iranian interests in the region, where Hezbollah has been propping up Assad at Tehran’s behest.

The Obama administration is “appeasing [Iran] in order to get the nuclear agreement,” said Michael Doran, a former senior director for the White House’s National Security Council (NSC) under George W. Bush.

“The agreement is [Obama’s] absolute top priority, but it is not the strategic goal” said Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. “The goal of the talks was always détente with Iran and that’s what we’re seeing. The nuclear goal is a means to a larger end.”

Badran also warned that ongoing U.S. military support to the LAF is bolstering Iran’s interests.

There is a “consistent attempt by Obama to assure the Iranians that their regional holdings and spheres of influence are recognized and respected,” he said. “He will not cross them and not jeopardize them. That includes in Syria, but by definition, includes it in Lebanon.”

“What we’re doing indirectly is helping Iran secure its strategic objective in Lebanon and Syria,” he said.